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Oregon Tech Board approves offering of BS in Mechanical Engineering at Wilsonville location, defers full approval to proceed with new soccer field

Dec 16, 2015
Review for approval of the BS in Mechanical Engineering degree at a new location in Wilsonville; and review for approval of a capital budget for the soccer field rehabilitation project at Oregon Tech’s Klamath Falls campus
The Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) Board of Trustees met yesterday in a special telephonic meeting, covering two agenda items: Review for approval of the BS in Mechanical Engineering degree at a new location in Wilsonville; and review for approval of a capital budget for the soccer field rehabilitation project at Oregon Tech’s Klamath Falls campus.
 
Additional Location for BS in Mechanical Engineering     Oregon Tech Provost Brad Burda summarized the request to the Board to approve the offering of the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) at Oregon Tech’s Wilsonville campus, in addition to the current locations in Klamath Falls and at Boeing. Provost Burda noted that the Provost Council of Oregon’s Public Universities already approved the program. Oregon Tech’s Board is the next step for approval, and then the program goes before the Higher Education Coordinating Commission for final approval in mid-January 2016.
 
Provost Burda said that the program would be offered by the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering, in the College of Engineering, Technology and Management. It is an applied engineering program that is ABET accredited, and offers the option of earning concurrent degrees. Portland State University offers a BS in Mechanical Engineering, but does not offer the degree on an evening/weekend schedule. By partnering, Oregon Tech and PSU can deliver the entire BSME program with these time options. Burda summarized the various evidence of need for the degree, including constituent letters, faculty and student requests, and employer survey results. It is anticipated that the program will grow to 80 students over the next six years with about 20 graduates a year. No new faculty will be needed to offer the program at the Wilsonville campus; over 80% of the BSME courses are already offered at the Wilsonville campus. 
 
After a brief discussion the Board of Trustees approved the BSME to operate out of the Wilsonville campus.
 
Request to Approve Soccer Field Design/Construction
Oregon Tech President Chris Maples provided a summary of the capital budget for the soccer field project, which was before the Board seeking approval to use $2.01 million in capital construction funding. Dr. Maples said that the project, which was previously approved by the State Board of Higher Education, was put on hold last spring when the bid amounts exceeded the available budget. The current project is a scaled back version that will enable Oregon Tech to begin competing in intercollegiate soccer in the Fall of 2016. The Board received written public testimony from students, faculty and staff, both in support of the project and unsupportive which was provided to the Board; no one provided live public testimony at the meeting.
 
Mike Schell, Oregon Tech’s Athletic Director, described Oregon Tech’s sports facilities, and the long standing goal to improve these aging facilities and ensure that our students can practice and compete at a safe, on-campus location, and that recruiting student-athletes will be more successful. The revised project scope includes designing and constructing a NCAA specification regulation synthetic turf soccer field with infrastructure to support the installation of lights and other infrastructure. The synthetic field is proposed over conventional turf as it holds up to the heavy practice and game schedules of Oregon Tech’s two soccer teams, and is more efficient to maintain though reduction of on-going maintenance costs and water usage, which is an issue in the drought-prone Klamath Basin. The average expected lifespan of the synthetic turf varies depending on the type and duration of use; Schell noted that Oregon Tech will get a longer than average use out it based on how the field is expected to be utilized. The approximate cost of replacement synthetic turf is $500,000. There is the ability to generate revenue from the field through tournaments, local use, and fundraising as well to purchase certain sponsor opportunities, such as lighting, covered team benches and an improved scoreboard.
 
Schell said that the Purvine Field site was chosen as it will involve significantly less earth movement and thus lower construction costs than other options, and it provides immediate infrastructure for parking. Other events and sports which are compatible with the synthetic turf will also be able use the field. The site is visible to people arriving on campus which is beneficial when presenting the campus to student recruits and visitors. 
 
The funding for the project will be done through XI-F bonds provided by the former Oregon University System (OUS) and approved by the legislature for capital rehabilitation projects. The bonds were sold in 2014 and Oregon Tech received $2,050,000, with $1.85 million allocated to the track and soccer project, and two $100,000 allocations for certain other campus projects. The funds remaining from these two projects can also be used for the soccer project. Schell described the previous bid process and reasons that the project was put on hold last year based on bids exceeding available funds. The new proposal fits within the available funding, the debt service on which will be covered by sales and other miscellaneous revenue generated by Athletics.  Schell noted that to meet the completion schedule of August 2016, construction would need to move aggressively. 
 
Trustees discussed at length issues related to the capital budget request, including: how on-going expenses such as turf replacement, extras like lighting and annual upkeep would be covered; how to better engage the entire campus community in vetting a capital project such as this and how the process of engaging stakeholders in university projects needs to be more transparent going forward, and be aligned with faculty shared governance; how this fits into the facilities master plan; how it will impact the debt ratio of the university; how the Klamath Falls community at large may be impacted; and how to work with the Foundation to fund-raise for components of the field (e.g., lighting, signage). 
 
The Board’s preliminary vote to approve the project ended in a tie and thus did not pass, but members restructured the motion consistent with Trustees’ comments about needing a better communication process on campus so that all voices may be heard. The Board voted on a new motion and unanimously approved a preliminary allocation of up to $150,000 for the planning, design and engineering of the soccer field project in order to keep the process moving forward; and that approval of the full capital project budget be put on the Board’s February 2016 docket, at which time Oregon Tech staff will provide additional financial information, and a process plan to engage the campus in discussions about auxiliary projects, while simultaneously holding information forums and using other means to provide information and a venue for discussion of the soccer project.
 
 
About Oregon Tech
Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is the premier public polytechnic institution in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communication, and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public, and international communities through hands-on, applied and relevant learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban, industry-focused campus in Wilsonville. Visit www.oit.edu to learn more about Oregon Institute of Technology.
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